In Camden Assembly’s dimly lit pub the ethereal being that is Monica Demmler sits across from the Benumu team. It is clear to see Monica’s colour is black; from her eyeliner, her jacket, her hat and her hair all the way across to the far reaches of her psychedelic music. Monica’s tone of voice when speaking initially surprises me in it’s light femininity, as this contrasts starkly with her singing voice; deep, dark and undeniably sexy. Monica’s general persona is the antithesis of her musical face bar one thing – she is giggly and smiling but she is as strikingly open as her music is. Her accent (and dark eye makeup) cannot help but make you feel as though she has seen things in places you’ve only ever read about in books and seen in fantastical movies. She is mystery personified.
Photography: Elizabeth Alster
You’re from Berlin. How would you compare Berlin’s music scene to London’s?
The music scene in Berlin is right now being established. I lived in London, so I know that London’s is more established. In Berlin the live music scene is only really starting.
Obviously you know a lot about London’s music scene; what kind of direction do you see it going in?
I feel like a lot of artists are also moving away right now because London is getting more and more expensive and things are getting tighter with Brexit, but the quality of music – I still feel London is the best city for music in Europe.
Who do you take musical inspiration from?
Black Angels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, my sister.
Your sound has been likened to fit a ‘seance in the dark, a candle strewn urban attic or an aimless wander through a moonlit desert at 3’ o, clock in the morning’ – what do you make of these descriptions?
It sounds really interesting. There is one song called Skunk Ghost, I wrote it when I was finishing my phD book, which I had to hand in in three months so I was writing it alone for three months and I didn’t have contact with people. I just kept writing, I’d go out for some food and then keep writing again. Then I had a weird dream about skunks all around my neck, and then I woke up and I was screaming really loud and I was like, that was such a crazy experience. So I looked up my dream on the internet trying to find out what it meant. It is linked to when you don’t have contact with other human beings, you kind of end up behaving like a skunk; avoiding other human beings and always saying you are busy.
Could you explain the origins of the name ‘Stony Sugarskull?’
How the name came into existence? When I was very young we actually were smoking weed and we called eachother ‘Stony (something)’. It stayed with me because it rhymes with ‘Stony Mony’ (her name being Monica). I didn’t particualrly like the name but then I started creating and they asked me ‘What’s your DJ name?’ and someone said ‘Your name is Stony isn’t it’ and they ended up putting it on the poster and I was like ‘Ok! I guess I have that name!’ And Sugarskull is like the celebration of the dead people coming to life again. The main philosophy behind my music is the reconnection to your inner self, being at one with the universe and breaking the capitalist system that we have. We are, right now, at a point where the generation needs to create a new system so there is a better life for future generations. We have that going back to nature trend but also, technology.
So are you pressing a political point in your music?
Yes. I’m trying to discuss what’s going on at the moment and how it makes me feel. Like capitalism – people getting more and more rich, while the lower classes are thrown away. But I think there is another movement going on; the back to nature trend, people are more DIY – trying to grow their own food. This trend is also a movement against capitalism. We need to make more people aware.
If you had to give yourself a musical spirit animal, what would it be?
(laughs) I like mermaids.
Me: that’s interesting though because whether you believe in mermaids or not they’re this ethereal being that does very much resonate with your music.
Do you find yourself worrying about having a strong stage persona, or does it come naturally?
Um, In the beginning when I started I was shy but now I try to be natural.
Quite a few artists have a problem with people having their phones out at performances, does this bother you at all?
I think that would be wonderful if they didn’t have their phones out because to fully experience it you need to be there, be present. I think it’s wonderful what Jack White does – banning phones.
What do you like/dislike from a crowd?
I would most like a crowd full of people who like psychadelic music and who believe in the back-ground of pyschadelic music. But I am open to anyone!
Do you have any new music in the pipeline?
Yes when I’m coming back from Berlin I will be here for a week to record some new songs.
If you could advise young, female artists on what the industry is like, what would be your golden rule?
One of the craziest things that I’m experiencing right now is the fact that there is still a huge, great big male ego in the industry. As a girl they will first see you as ‘Oh, she doesn’t know anything’, and treat you like a little girl. I would say don’t believe all this negative male energy.
What is your dream venue to play at?
I would love to play on a desert – that would be great.